In 2013, Reuters Investigates wrote an article exposing the practice of families “privately re-homing” their children adopted from overseas when they became overwhelmed or felt as though the placement was no longer a good fit.
Using online messaging boards such as Yahoo And Facebook, parents would place ads advertising and describing their unwanted children, communicate with prospective new parents, and essentially pass their children off to strangers, often times illegally and with little to no government scrutiny or consequences. The phrase “ re-homing” is often used in reference to finding a new home for pets, and similar to an ad that would be placed for an animal , parents would use phrases such as “ Good Boy” , “ Handsome” , or “ Eager to please” In their advertisements . During their investigation, Reuters uncovered about 5,029 posts on the Yahoo message board, and noted that on average there was a child advertised to be re-homed at least once a week.
Many of the children advertised on the adoption disruption board were dealing with emotional and behavioral disabilities, such as Reactive Attachment Disorder ( RAD) – A condition that prevents children from bonding emotionally with parents or caregivers, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) As well as ADD/ADHD and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Laws Affecting Re-Homing
Unfortunately there are few laws put into place to prevent the dangerous act of illegal re-homing. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children or ICPC is an agreement among the US States, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands that requires families to secure approval of authorities in both states when custody of a child is transferred across state lines to someone outside the family. This law was put into place so that prospective parents could be properly vetted, yet despite this law being put into place, it is rarely enforced due to lack of knowledge by local law enforcement and because of failure of parents to take proper legal action. When this law is enforced, the magnitude of the punishment varies, with some states charging parents with criminal sanctions such as misdemeanors, and other states not explicitly stating what the punishment is. If a child is re-homed illegally, the child must be immediately removed and returned to their parents, but parents are rarely punished for their actions
Parents offer their children for re-homing on the internet because they feel there are limited resources to help them post-adoption. Therapeutic treatment is often expensive and social services in many states do not offer help for families. Some parents feel that in international adoption there is not enough information disclosed about children that are being placed for adoption and this makes them ill-equipped to handle emotional and behavioral issues
The Universal Adoption Accreditation Act of 2012, which went into effect in July 2014, was put into place to insure that international adoption agencies, even those that are not part of the Hague Agreement, are held to the same standards as domestic adoptions. International Agencies that are accredited and approved are subject to ongoing monitoring and observation and are held accountable for failure to adhere to accreditation standards. The safeguards put into place by this act include:
- The inability to obtain children through sale, exploitation, abduction, or trafficking
- Parents will receive training to better prepare themselves for the challenges they may face when raising an adopted child
- Agencies must ensure that the inter-country adoption is in the best interest of the child
- Agencies must ensure that their personnel are qualified and appropriately trained and provide adoption services in an ethical manner
- Agencies must respond to complaints about their services and activities and may not retaliate against their clients who complain
While the initial reaction may be to judge these families who have re-homed their children, take note that the resounding reason that families gave for rehoming their child was due to a lack of resources to help them with handling the emotional and behavioral disabilities that they were ill-prepared for. The fact of the matter is that some adoptions will disrupt in order to find a better equip environment for the child. The problem is that there are a lack of options and support for families to disrupt the adoption safely. It is the stigma of a failed adoption as well as lack of resources and support for families in crisis that have helped to create the re-homing problem.
Educating Families During and After the Adoption Process
Families in crisis should absolutely focus on the best interest and safety of their child however poor and unsafe discussions are often made when families feel backed in a corner with no access to help.
Adoption education should not end once the adoption is finalized, but should continue to be a lifelong learning process. Families may need additional support after the adoption and during various developmental stages throughout their child’s life. It is also important for placing agencies to not only focus on the child’s adjustment but also observing the parent’s post adoption adjustment as well so thing such as depression or indications of the inability to cope to a child’s needs are caught before it becomes a crisis situation.
The placing agency should be the family’s first call when in crisis. Agencies need to be able to offer services and support long after placement that a family may need. There needs to be no only more re-homing prevention but also more options and support that are easily accessible to families as well as a process in place to disrupt the adoption safely if all else fails.
Check out the websites listed below to see what government resources are offered to adoptive families.